Tue, Apr 16, 2013 - Page 3 News List

NCC looking at the nation’s digital future

INFORMATION PIPELINE:The NCC said that the supply of Internet bandwidth is proving increasingly important as consumers switch away from cable and terrestrial TV providers

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

The nation is not likely to see a privately owned Internet service provider (ISP) offer ultra high-speed networks as such an undertaking requires massive funding, the National Communications Commission (NCC) said on Sunday.

Google announced on Tuesday last week that it would build another super-fast Internet network — called Google Fiber — in Austin, Texas, following the company’s first of such installations in Kansas City, Kansas, launched two years ago.

The fiber network is reported to be more than 100 times faster than the most-commonly available broadband Internet access. Google Fiber offers Internet speeds of up to 1 gigabit per second for both downloads and uploads

NCC spokesperson Yu Hsiao-cheng (虞孝成) said that there was little likelihood of a privately owned Taiwanese ISP building such a network in the near future.

“The nation’s largest telecoms carrier, Chunghwa Telecom, is expected to do everything it can to install fiber networks across the nation,” Yu said.

“The government can entrust the company with such a task because about one-third of its shares are owned by the government [through the Ministry of Transportation and Communications]. It is expected to meet the government’s policy goals and can afford to wait a long time to redeem its costs. When you have such a government-backed company charged with building a fiber network, profit-driven private firms simply cannot compete,” Yu said.

Yu said that Chunghwa has already encountered many difficulties in constructing fiber networks as the work involves digging up and then repairing roads, adding that it is also not easy to install fiber networks in tall buildings.

Installing such networks would be a very challenging task for a private company, he said.

Meanwhile, a recent survey by the Nielsen Co showed that “Zero TV households” in the US are on the rise, from 2 million in 2007 to 5 million this year.

The term refers to consumers who opt to stop paying for cable or satellite TV services and instead watch TV shows and movies via the Internet. These numbers have some US broadcasters worried, prompting them to hold a national meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, earlier this month to discuss ways to win back “cord cutters.”

Taiwan has also seen a gradual decline in cable television service subscriber numbers. Based on a report from NCC in the fourth quarter of last year, the nation has about 4.9 million households subscribing to cable TV services.

In the past, the government estimated that there were approximately 6 million households with cable TV.

On the other hand, the Multimedia-on-Demand (MOD) service offered by Chunghwa has made tremendous progress, reaching 1 million subscribers in 2011.

Yu said that the cable TV operators should take this trend a warning.

“What this shows is that the control of bandwidth is becoming increasingly important. The Internet offers many choices and consumers no longer depend solely on terrestrial or cable TV services for choice of programs. I think this is what Google and AT&T have figured out. If you are able to control broadband access into homes, you are able to transmit information, including commercials, to every household. That was why they think the investment [in high-speed networks] are worth it,” he said.

“In this age of digital convergence, the more diverse content you can provide, the more bandwidth you have, and the more resources you own, then you win,” he said.

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